"Books Included" tags on sequels/screen universe expansions October 22, 2019 7:59 AM   Subscribe

While I understand the intent and intended consideration behind using the "Books Included" tag on the post for the debut episode of HBO's Watchmen, I don't think it actually makes sense and likely sets a precedent for increasingly complicated use of spoiler tags for show discussion.

The original Watchmen comic maxiseries is in excess of thirty years old and is commonly held to be the most acclaimed work ever in its genre. It is a metatextual work about comics read by about as many people as any adult-oriented comic work ever sold.

HBO's Watchmen TV series is not an adaptation of that series, does not take place in the same era, and is alternately described as either a completely new story within the same universe or a semi-sequel set many years after the original using scattered tonal, thematic, and plot bits from the original.

I do not believe either of these interpretations requires splitting the discussion into books/no books.

My argument is that discussions about shows set within expanded screen universes (and sequels for that matter) come with the implicit understanding that the original work may be discussed. Further, when the work is, by design, metatextual both in terms of how it treats its genre and how it treats the prior work, trying to segment out anything that could be a "spoiler" for the earlier work is somewhere between inane and nonsensical

Compare for example, Star Trek Discovery. The show is intended to be able to be enjoyed as both a standalone series and a work that riffs on decades of existing Trek lore. Although viewers from both camps participate in the FanFare threads, we do not segment them out with special tags, because to choose to engage about a show that expands upon a pre-existing property is to acknowledge that you will see references to earlier material.

I would make the argument that discussions of certain kinds of properties come with certain expectations about prior material being discussed. A reasonable person cannot drop in a Doctor Who post and complain about hearing from long term fans that the character who just popped up in the last five minutes of an episode is a villain. A reasonable person cannot expect to watch the upcoming series The Mandalorian and not come across discussions of Star Wars films. If someone were to make a post for the novel The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall, it would be nonsensical to try and segment out discussion into threads for people who have or have not read/seen Gone with the Wind.

If we use "Could a person watching/reading this sequel/expanded universe work as a standalone come into contact with plot points from the prior work here?" as a guideline... we are going to need a lot more tags.

I would think it is better to work from certain assumptions about derivative works that are different than those we use for straight adaptations and leave it at that.
posted by DirtyOldTown to Etiquette/Policy at 7:59 AM (40 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

This is probably a case by case thing. I agree that your Star Wars example would be unreasonable but it doesn't feel like an exact match to this issue.

In this case I have a hard time understanding why someone would want a show only thread, partially because reading the comic is not a particularly lengthy task, but I'm interested in hearing from those that would prefer two threads.
posted by selfnoise at 8:13 AM on October 22


Serious devil's advocate question: Why does it matter? If there are two threads, and only one of them makes sense to you as a way to engage, then why not just ignore the other thread? If there are people who want to engage using the other rule set, how does that hurt anyone?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:21 AM on October 22 [12 favorites]


I have read the comic, but it is not even the slightest bit hard for me to imagine why someone would want a show-only thread for the Watchmen series. You'd get to avoid reading a thread that is jam-packed with discussion/analysis/complaints about the differences between the original and the show, how this is true to the author's intent or not, how it is or is not desecration of the source material, how much better it is than Zach Snyder's version anyway, etc.

You might just get a discussion that is (perhaps artificially) restricted to contemplation of the show itself. Which can be nice.
posted by skewed at 9:23 AM on October 22 [13 favorites]


I know that it is called a "special spoiler condition" in the New Post page, but I think in this case, it is a useful way to provide a discussion space that will not be bogged down in discussions about how various plot points do or do not relate to the comic books. Personally, I'm totally into including a fine reading of the comics in the discussion of the new series, but I could understand someone preferring to just appreciate the series on its own.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:25 AM on October 22 [1 favorite]


I think it matters because it splits the discussion for no good reason.
posted by Pendragon at 9:26 AM on October 22 [7 favorites]


The discussion is split voluntarily by people who want different types of discussions about the same source material. How is that not a good reason? Providing a forum for people who might otherwise feel compelled to skip the discussion altogether seems like a good enough reason to me.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:29 AM on October 22 [2 favorites]


To put it another way: for those who want a single discussion rule set only, can I assume that you want the remaining discussion to be the one that follows your preferred discussion rules? Would you feel differently if we only had the No Books thread?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:34 AM on October 22 [4 favorites]


Doesn't Fanfare have its own Talk section? Why is this here?
posted by oulipian at 10:25 AM on October 22 [5 favorites]


I think it matters because being overly cautious about spoilers is a known, ongoing hindrance to FF discussion and let's have a sequel discussion where you can't mention the original is a new standard in fragmentation.

If that's what people want, cool. But let's not pretend it isn't throwing the door open to increasingly fragmented posts.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:36 AM on October 22 [2 favorites]


I don’t like the fragmented discussions and I’m in general a grouch about needing to tiptoe around people’s concerns about having popular media spoiled for them, and I’d like to see more rigor applied to how we think about this. I thought a “books included” separate thread would be silly for this particular show and didn’t intend to create a thread like that. This minor irritation is like 10,000th on the list of things I think we should be worrying about at MetaFilter; having said that, it is still a sort of minor irritation for me that we set up a needlessly complicated set of rules so we can all have the kind of media discussion we want here. But mainly I just want to see what the interesting people of MeFi have to say about this show and if now I have to follow two different threads to get that, then fine.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:46 AM on October 22 [3 favorites]


it is still a sort of minor irritation for me that we set up a needlessly complicated set of rules so we can all have the kind of media discussion we want here.

IMO, that's part of a pretty significant issue. Each weird little rule like this creates more barriers to participation and makes everything a little more members-only, which doesn't seem like a great direction for the site to be going in. The thing about FF randomly having its own Talk section is another. (And is it really a FF-specific MeTa equivalent, or was it supposed to be something more like Music Talk, whatever that is exactly?)

I honestly feel like I'd need to crack open a whole new manual just to be able to participate on FF, and that's kind of a downer.
posted by Not A Thing at 10:56 AM on October 22 [8 favorites]


The original purpose of the spoiler conditions tags was to help people avoid spoilers.

I have not seen anyone make a clear case for why spoilers are a risk here. Instead, there are arguments about why there are certain areas of discussion they would like siloed out.

Even if you feel this is entirely fair and a great idea, this is a different use case than the tags were invented to support and represents a change in policy/direction.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:02 AM on October 22


being overly cautious about spoilers is a known, ongoing hindrance to FF discussion....

...which is resolved by giving people who insist on that rule set their own place to discuss it, thus leaving you free to not be cautious about spoilers. Problem solved!

let's have a sequel discussion where you can't mention the original is a new standard in fragmentation

It's not fragmentation. It's somebody else's party. You want a costume party, no restrictions. Cool. You can. Someone else wants a specific theme costume party. Cool. They can. Go to both parties, go to whichever party suits you, or skip them all. Cool. It's not a zero sum game.

There are currently only 9 comments in the Show Only Watchmen thread. There are currently 58 comments in the Books Included thread. Feel free to ignore those 9 comments.

Allowing other people the space to have their own conversations is not needlessly complicated, it's courtesy. No Spoilers Ever would also be a super simple rule set, if simplicity is really the issue. Obviously it isn't, since nobody here arguing for the One True Thread is arguing for a no spoilers thread.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:08 AM on October 22 [9 favorites]


I'm not sure I'm buying the framing of this as a matter of courtesy since the argument being made is that hearing from people who've read the books is likely to be annoying. Not spoiling, just annoying. Though maybe they're right, I don't know.

But instead of diving into a pointless civility debate, let's call the larger point what it is. Essentially what this points us toward is a "Clean Watch"/"Previous Works Included" system. (Well, it's being ramrodded into the existing spoiler tags for now, but that's what it is.) And yes, it's a new way to break the conversations into smaller pieces. So yes, that's fragmentation.

Increasing FF engagement is a stated priority. I think this hurts that goal. I think having more and smaller discussions hurts. I think having more rules to learn and navigate hurts.

Maybe you think having the more targeted posts would help. That's cool. We can debate that.

But no one's being silenced all their life here, we're just talking about the smartest way to host discussions for an HBO show. So maybe holster that next rant on courtesy and having voices be heard and let's just talk pros and cons of policy.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:34 AM on October 22 [4 favorites]


> DirtyOldTown: I think having more rules to learn and navigate hurts.

There have always been rules to participate on MetaFilter. Early on they were rules like "You have to have access to a computer and an internet connection" and "You have to know when signups are open" and "You have to be comfortable with people saying 'I'd hit it' on a regular basis". For some folks, those rules were so easy to follow that they might as well not exist, for others, they were very complicated indeed. You could argue that new rules about spoilers and "Show Only" make it harder for some people to participate, because it means they have to get a sense of the room, and read before they comment, and be considerate about what they say and what they don't say, but this is how MetaFilter has been all along for many many people, and by foregrounding our guidelines and expectations, I submit that we are making the site more inclusive and welcoming, not less.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:44 AM on October 22 [1 favorite]


Rules are a big part of our culture, sure. But the notion that the site can be confusing sometimes is well-established. (For an example from this page, there are existing users unclear on whether Meta questions about FF go here or in FFTalk.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:51 AM on October 22


I should go do some work (and let other people talk). I do appreciate people engaging with me on this.

Having heard people out, my initial objection to the use of the spoiler tags for a sequel remains. But, it's probably worth discussing whether we should have "Clean Watch"/"Previous Works Included" tags, as there are people here who'd like things segmented out like that. Maybe the conversation would go better reframed that way.

(It's clear where I come down there but I'm just one voice.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:59 AM on October 22 [1 favorite]


Wait...FanTALK? Where the heck is that?
posted by agregoli at 12:14 PM on October 22 [1 favorite]


It's supposedly in the sidebar...but what about mobile? I see no obvious link to this.
posted by agregoli at 12:15 PM on October 22


And then...I find it, but it still only says FanFare at the top. Very confusing.
posted by agregoli at 12:17 PM on October 22


"Clean Watch"/"Previous Works Included" tags would be fine with me. I don't care what they're called, so long as the options are available to participate from either point.

When I want that option (I actually don't in this case, I have my own dog-eared copy of Watchmen, but have wanted it in other cases and will again), I will not be participating in the Books Included threads. So not providing that opportunity will absolutely decrease my participation.

For example, soon there will be new HBO Game of Thrones universe shows that are not directly taken from the George R. R. Martin books. If there are not Show Only or Clean Watch options, I will not participate, as I haven't read the books yet, but plan to some day.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:26 PM on October 22


Yeah, separate threads are pretty obtuse here.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:36 PM on October 22 [2 favorites]


I think it does fragment discussion, which is a particular concern here because maybe 40% of the time do we get enough participation to make a thread lively.

But I'm pretty sympathetic to "it can be tiresome when the discussion is mostly about prior related works".
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:13 PM on October 22 [5 favorites]


I think it does fragment discussion, which is a particular concern here because maybe 40% of the time do we get enough participation to make a thread lively.

It's not like if you eliminate the show-only thread its users are going to migrate to the spoilers thread. They are probably just not going to bother posting at all.
posted by Memo at 11:03 AM on October 23 [1 favorite]


I'm curious what the default assumption is supposed to be with the threads. It sounds like there are people who expect threads to be spoiler free for anything except the work specifically mentioned, but only object when another work mentioned is something they haven't yet, but might someday see/read. The movie Joker could touch on King of Comedy and Taxi Driver, which the movie is said to reference, the other Batman movies, the comics, and a number of other pop culture works. Should those all be off limits or do we renegotiate each thread based on whether someone objects to a reference or not and get the mods to clean up comments that are then found to have strayed?
posted by gusottertrout at 1:08 PM on October 23 [1 favorite]


My observation is that getting into the details of what counts as a spoiler is almost always counterproductive because apparently the threshold varies widely even as individuals defend their personal standards fiercely and dismiss contrary examples as absurd. It's one of those kinds of things.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:43 PM on October 23 [3 favorites]


[shrug] Just read both threads?
posted by desuetude at 10:39 AM on October 24


"Books included" versus "show only" is a pretty straightforward and sensemaking distinction in general for FanFare. If you want to nitpick and rules-lawyer those two categories for a given work more than you want to discuss the work itself...uh, maybe you need a separate space to vent about how people keep being wrong on the internet. Or just roll your eyes and let it go. Most of us are occasionally doing that. It's okay.
posted by desuetude at 10:46 AM on October 24


Comic books make these things harder to parse out and regulate because in my experience with FanFare it's not really about spoilers, it's that people see comic book adaptations of extensions of the comic book & just want to keep talking about the comic book, and what the actions of the characters in the show mean for the comic book, and what this situation would have been like in the comic book, and why this show is bad because it doesn't match what I think would have happened in the comic book, or it's not sufficiently comic-book-like in general, or maybe it's too comic-book-like, and why I'm dissatisfied because the events unfold either too much like it did in the comic book or not enough like how it did in the comic book. I think the real distinction isn't spoilers ok/spoilers not ok but "do you want to engage with this work as it is right now" or "do you want to just keep engaging with the thing this was based on even though this is also a new thing".
posted by bleep at 11:49 AM on October 24 [5 favorites]


I think it'd be perfectly reasonable to throw a comment into the "Show Only" threads mentioning that the books are only tangentially-related, and that the Books-only threads are very unlikely to contain spoilers.

A lot of folks have non-spoiler reasons for avoiding the "With Books" threads, so I personally think it's fine to have both. However, for those who are primarily motivated by spoilers, I think it's perfectly reasonable to mention that they aren't relevant for this particular show...
posted by schmod at 11:54 AM on October 24


> bleep: I think the real distinction isn't spoilers ok/spoilers not ok but "do you want to engage with this work as it is right now" or "do you want to just keep engaging with the thing this was based on even though this is also a new thing".

Exactly. We saw this in the Game of Thrones threads (the reason we have the Books Included/Show Only distinction in the first place) where we still had the division even after the show caught up to and passed the books in terms of plot. It was a way to make space for folks who weren't interested in engaging with the whole history of the thing, and I think that is welcoming, not confusing.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:54 AM on October 24 [3 favorites]


Yeah I mean I already decided not to watch this new Watchmen show even though I usually just watch whatever's on HBO because it seems like it comes with 30 years of context & baggage that I don't have the time or interest to deal with. If I did want to talk about the show on FanFare having a thread to just do that with other people in the same context would be welcome. Although it seems like I'm in the minority of FanFare users, who mostly do already seem to have that context for most things.
posted by bleep at 12:01 PM on October 24


It maybe made sense for Game of Thrones where the threads could grow to hundreds of comments, but the larger Watchmen thread is sitting at like eighty, so the division does look a bit like some kind of weird attitude against comic books (i.e., I want to talk about my very serious adult show without the thread getting clogged with juvenile comic book stuff).
posted by Pyry at 2:42 PM on October 24 [1 favorite]


It's nothing against comic books themselves, it's that if you just want to talk about the thing you watched, almost the entire thread actually being about something else makes that impossible.
posted by bleep at 3:11 PM on October 24 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure how many consecutive days I am going to have to emotionally deal with being the unnamed supposedly at-fault instigator of this thread. (No one mentioned it to me.) I told myself I'd ignore it, but I can't. I was even trying to use Thought Blocking! Heh. I give in. I am going to write something here and probably close my account. The negative emotional material (a charge of elitism, when it's more likely the opposite; "obtuse") is not worth the positive.

I was originally asking because of the apparent peculiarities of this show in the context of earlier works, and a good portion of the replies were, in short, "everybody knows about this stuff, who cares about spoilers?". That's what pissed me off in the first place. I contained my overwrought annoyance to politely asking if the "books only" tag could be added, via the contact form; and not having heard back an hour later (not a problem!), making the "show only" thread, which was a protest against: "34 years is long enough to forgo spoiler tags. Might as well ask for spoiler tags on Moby Dick".

Why so many assume that because they have read or watched some particular work, everyone must have, is beyond me. That is what I feel is elitist (the word may as well have been used above)—as if each person's background were homogenous, and certainly they must be like you:
> If you want my opinion, 34 years is long enough to forgo spoiler tags. Might as well ask for spoiler tags on Moby Dick.

> nthing that spoiler alerts seem unnecessary, this genie's been out of the bottle a while now ["for me and people *I* know"? ed.]

> The comics came out 34 years ago. At what point does the need for spoilers end

> reading the comic is not a particularly lengthy task

> The original Watchmen comic maxiseries is in excess of thirty years old and is commonly held to be the most acclaimed work ever in its genre —this post [and I've still just barely heard of it]
I would absolutely support "show only" tags for Moby-Dick for people who didn't really know the story of Moby-Dick and wanted to watch it without knowing the fate of Queequeg or whoever. Now, while "Moby-Dick is one of the most acclaimed novels in American history", I expect the number of living people just in the US who haven't read Moby-Dick is o-mags. higher than the number who have. And what they do know about it is "whale", which leaves a lot of room for being informed of how the story goes before you find out when you're watching. The apparently juvenile word for this is "spoiler", which no they aren't the end of the world, but it's nice for some of us. "Us" also didn't create a metatalk based on one occurrence and a max of seven (at the time) comments in the "problematic" thread. That venture was rather obviously more likely to not work and persist anyway, yet all of this ensues as another hedge-trimming exercise. Paradoxically, if it did work, which is apparently what you're concerned about, it would be even more of a Problem, which gets to my themes here.

The invisible gravitational mass this discussion orbits around is Metafilter's collective unconscious desire for sophistication: it thinks there are few people who would be naive enough, un-pretense-ous enough—not as literate as you in some domain, and willing to show it—to publicly acknowledge that they weren't familiar with an underlying work, and then want to discuss the new work as its own thing. It is after all, mostly entertainment. And in hyper-literate communities like this one, the belief is not wrong because that is what one observes here; but it doesn't have to be that way.

There's another book-based show coming out on HBO that I also know literally nothing about (sorry) and do plan to watch: His Dark Materials. Who can resist at least trying out HBO's prime shows? Are you going to make a big deal of tags for this one too? I know this community is ridiculously hyper-literate (and wants everyone to know it, mind)—but shit, make space for people who have not been super-inundated by your highly specific and extensive cultural touchstones.
posted by sylvanshine at 12:42 AM on October 25 [5 favorites]


If I did want to talk about the show on FanFare having a thread to just do that with other people in the same context would be welcome.

I thought on FanFare multiple threads were allowed? Couldn't you open a thread with these parameters?
posted by agregoli at 5:46 AM on October 25


I don't think the central argument was ever whether there was a canon all people must know.

I haven't even seen anyone argue against the existence of show only threads.

Of course, it is fair to have a show only thread for an adaptation. If there was a Moby Dick TV show I am confident we could have a show only thread without argument.

This is not an adaptation, though. It is, depending on how seriously you take Damon Lindelof, either a new story or a sequel. It's truly disingenuous to keep glossing over that.

A more apt analogy would be whether, if there were to be a sequel made to Moby Dick, we could separate out the book readers from other commenters not because they could spoil the plot (they could not) but because hearing from them would be annoying.

I think the question, as it has sort of evolved, is whether we should apply the shows only thread even when discussing what is effectively a sequel... whether we should use it not to protect people from spoilers but to segment out people who would want to discuss prior installments in the work.

I don't love the idea of adding new rules and subdivisions to a developing part of the site strictly because people find what some have to say tedious and distracting. But now that I have a handle on that--rather than simple spoilers--as the actual root of the argument, I agree it's a fair conversation to have.

What I don't love is the idea that if only people would have the courtesy to stop being abusive with the rules and think of inclusion, we'd be free to use the rule for spoiler tags where no spoilers exist to create separate threads that exclude those annoying ass comic book nerds.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:50 AM on October 25 [1 favorite]


At this point, even my comment above has more to do with not wanting to be misunderstood/mischaracterized than it is to continue to argue a case. It seems like more people in the community want this than don't. And as a community member, I roll with what we decide together.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:55 AM on October 25


This is not an adaptation, though.

And yet, a huge amount of the discussion in the "books included" thread is about how this new, not-an-adaptation work is/isn't in line with the prior works.

I mean, look, I've read Watchmen quite a number of times, I am pretty up to date with the later unfortunate cash grab works. I haven't yet watched the new show, as I have serious misgivings about it. I did read both threads on the first episode, to get a feel for whether it was something worth digging into. And if I do choose to watch it and discuss it on fanfare, I think even as someone who knows the prior works, I'd probably rather do it in the context that assumes we're not all just here to talk about why we think this incarnation of a character is wrong compared to a prior one, which feels like basically what the "Show Only" thread is for.

I don't think that's exclusionary. I think that's allowing for a discussion space about the work on its own merits, for those who aren't interested in every thread being another round of "let's discuss why this does/doesn't fit with the originals".
posted by tocts at 7:56 AM on October 25 [3 favorites]


A reasonable person cannot drop in a Doctor Who post and complain about hearing from long term fans that the character who just popped up in the last five minutes of an episode is a villain. A reasonable person cannot expect to watch the upcoming series The Mandalorian and not come across discussions of Star Wars films.

I, and many others, are not reasonable people.

Perhaps I was at some point, long ago. But then the Game of Thrones threads appeared, with an endless discussion about what this or that meant, based on the fucking books. Lets not go through that again.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:21 PM on October 25 [5 favorites]


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